Last Friday, February 17, highly-respected Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon, called a news conference to address the unthinkable.
A male nurse in the hospital’s pediatric intensive care unit had been charged with downloading and distributing child pornography.
Doernbecher did all the right things. They issued a news release, held a news conference, posted Frequently Asked Questions regarding the case on their website, set up a telephone hotline for anyone who had questions and mailed 10,000 letters to families whose children had been treated at the hospital during the time the nurse was employed.
Holding their breath
Here is the Facebook post announcing the arrest of the nurse.
Within minutes, “likers” had begun commenting. Doernbecher responded quickly, using formal, scripted language in early comments and referring questions to their FAQ page.
No firestorm on Facebook
There has been no firestorm on Facebook. In all, 38 people have responded to the Facebook post since Friday, and they have largely been supportive of Doernbecher. In fact, although a few people commenting expressed frustration or discomfort, I would not consider any of the comments negative.
A typical comment said, “Thank you Doernbecher’s for handling this so openly and honestly. We just got the letter and are pretty sure he was our son’s PICU nurse on at least one occasion. It’s absolutely sickening and so, so scary.”
Initial scripted responses fall flat
I think Doernbecher missed a chance early on to express concern and empathize with families. Their scripted responses to comments fell flat for me. I understand that legal would have carefully crafted the initial comments to avoid additional problems.
But a couple of days later, when an effected parent posted a comment about how difficult it was to receive the letter, which referred to her deceased child, the hospital responded with compassion, offered to share her concerns with others within the organization and identified the Facebook writer.
“Thank you for your honest feedback,” she wrote. “This understandably must have been a hard letter to receive for many reasons; the last thing we’d wish to do is make that experience any more difficult. I’m deeply sorry that our words may have caused you additional pain (or, as you say, grumpiness). – Brycie”
Very nicely done.
Weak Twitter strategy
On Twitter, Doernbecher repeated two tweets on their @OHSUDoernbecher account several times over 24 hours.
According to TweetReach, these posts were potentially viewed by 7,532 people.
But the hospital missed a chance to engage patients in the broader Twitter world. Media tweeted the story referring to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and those tweets were retweeted. TweetReach reports that 47,059 people potentially viewed those tweets – and Doernbecher didn’t reply to any of them.
Whether they were unaware of the posts – which would have been an oversight on their part — or chose not to engage, I don’t know. But they missed an opportunity to clarify, educate and show compassion to a larger Twitter audience.
First of all, hospitals need to have an active listening program that allows them to monitor conversations going on beyond their own platforms. Doernbecher could have created even more positive impressions had they responded to those Tweets.
Secondly, bad news doesn’t need to result in negative responses. At Hive Strategies we talk a lot about the importance and value of trusting your community. On Facebook, Doernbecher acted candidly and openly, letting the conversation flow and responding appropriately. This was a scary, risky step, but they were rewarded when their community reacted with support and encouragement.
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